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Break time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A single image greets you this morning, as will be the case through the Thanksgiving holiday.

A humble narrator requires a break periodically, to recharge and reinvent. Worry not, however, for pithy commentary and puckish intent returns on the Monday following Thanksgiving – the first of December.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 21, 2014 at 11:00 am

inexpressibly more

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This actually and absolutely astounds one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering from Red Hook back to Astoria around a week ago, your humble narrator found himself on the south side of Williamsburg at the triangle formed by Wythe, Heyward, and Wallabout. This splinter of a building is rising up from a paved triangle which is created by the ancient paths surrounding it. A tiny three story house, it just seems… wow, in Williamsburg, every patch of soil will have apartments on it pretty soon. Wow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Based on the number of entrances, this has to be a three unit building presumptively? A basement, a first floor, and then a duplex upstairs? Then again, the stairs on the Heyward (left) side might be a common entrance with internal stairs? Talk about an efficiency apartment. Sheesh. Check it out in google street view (this is a very new building, doesn’t even seem to have an address yet) to get an idea of the actual size of this lot – which is just bigger than five parking spots for cars.

Note: I did try to find a street address on this structure at NYC DOB, where I was easily defeated and gave up without trying too hard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By the way, there’s two cool Working Harbor Committee events going on this weekend you might want to attend.

Saturday, the 30th is a Port Newark excursion onboard the Circle Line with Captain John Doswell, Ed Kelly of the Maritime Association of Port of NY/NJ and Maggie Flanagan – Marine Educator South Street Seaport Museum. The boat boards at 10:30, sails at 11, and returns at 1:30. Click here for more info and tix.

Sunday, the 31st is the annual Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition. 10:00 AM – Parade of tugs from Pier 84 to the start line. 10:30 AM – Race starts – From South of 79th Street Boat Basin (near Pier I) to Pier 84. 11 AM – Nose to nose pushing contests and line toss competition. Noon – Tugs tie up to Pier 84 for lunch and awards ceremony. Exhibits, amateur line toss, spinach eating contest 1 PM – Awards ceremony. Tugs depart at about 2 PM.

For tix on the spectator boat, click here.

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Williamsburgh Savings Bank, part 2.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In yesterday’s post –gleaming sands” – the story of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building at 175 Broadway in Brooklyn was described in some detail. As promised, in today’s post, a few more shots from inside the recently restored structure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the middle of the room is an ornate safe, which attracted no small amount of attention from the crowd that Atlas Obscura had brought in. This looked like the sort of safe which a cowboy might attempt to open with dynamite in a western movie.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We were told that the safe is of European make and design, manufactured specifically in France. Of course, that’s 1875 France, which was a very different France than the one which we’re stuck with today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the inside of the door were two medallions, which were “maker’s marks.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Emperor Napoleon the Third is commemorated on one of them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Alongside the safe was a mechanism which acted as a sort of intercom to other sections of the building. This is not an electronic system, it should be noted, you simply spoke or whistled into the appropriate tube.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The domes kept on gathering my attention. The ornamentation and detail up there were incredible. Your humble narrator is still analyzing the iconography contained therein.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 19, 2014 at 11:44 am

gleaming sands

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How the other half lives, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pals at Atlas Obscura rang me up and asked if I’d be interested in shooting at one of their events in Brooklyn, and since this offered an opportunity to leave the house (a rare treat during this winter of frozen discontent), I packed up Our Lady of the Pentacle and my camera bag and we set off for Williamsburg. Now, I don’t spend a lot of time around these parts, can’t afford it, but its also nice to see how the other half lives.

from wikipedia

Williamsburg is a neighborhood of 113,000 inhabitants in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, bordering Greenpoint to the north, Bedford–Stuyvesant to the south, Bushwick and Ridgewood, Queens to the east and the East River to the west. The neighborhood is part of Brooklyn Community Board 1. The neighborhood is served by the New York Police Department (NYPD)’s 90th Precinct. In the City Council, the western and southern part of the neighborhood is represented by the 33rd District; and the eastern part of the neighborhood is represented by the 34th District.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building at 175 Broadway, a building erected just 10 years after the Civil War. A famous structure, its the domed building you can’t help but notice when exiting the Williamsburg Bridge, at least when you’re on the Brooklyn side.

from wikipedia

The Williamsburgh Savings Bank was an important institution in Brooklyn, New York, from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. A series of bank mergers brought it into the HSBC group late in the 20th century. (It is not to be confused with the nearby Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburgh, now known simply as the DIME, a rival local institution that has remained independent.) It is best remembered for two imposing headquarters buildings still standing, the domed original at 175 Broadway in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, designed by George B. Post, and the later Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As transmitted by our hosts, the tale of the WSB includes decades of neglect, wear, and tear. The current owners acquired it just a few years ago (and of course it was controversial, it’s in North Brooklyn, not Queens) and set upon a radical architectural restoration of the bank. Pictured is the meticulous work found on the first of the interior domes.

from nyc-architecture.com

To build a new edifice for the WBS the board of trustees hired George B. Post (1837-1913), a man who had just finished the important Equitable Life Assurance Building (1868-1870), was at present finishing the Western Union Building (1873-1875), and who would later go on to design the icon of money, the market, and capitalism in 1903. Architecturally speaking and with vast hindsight, it was upon the hiring of Post that the WBS secured itself as a structural institution and landmark in Brooklyn. For it is through the tie to its architect that this structurally impressive building gains even more notoriety; George B. Post would later go on to design City College (1886-1906), the Brooklyn Historical Society (1881), the New York Stock Exchange (1903), and other notable buildings throughout the country.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were three buildings here, the 1875 original and an early 20th century addition (1906, I think) – both domed – and a 1940’s era office building of pedestrian design. The domed buildings were landmarked, but the office building was not and it was torn down. There are plans to erect a modern hotel on the property, a mammoth 40 story affair. The former bank will act as an event space for the hotel.

for a Landmarks Preservation Committee document generated by municipal authorities back in 1996, click here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the second dome, which I seem to recall as being of 1906 vintage, but might be misstating the date. The oculus in the center was actually boarded up during the Second World War and remained so until the restoration process began. In case you’re curious, yes, I laid down on the floor in the center of the room and shot straight up.

from ny.curbed.com

When Brooklyn hostel owner Juan Figueroa purchased the Williamsburgh Savings Bank for $4.5 million in 2010, the rumor was that he planned to convert the historic bank building into a hotel. That would have been difficult, though, since the structure is an exterior, interior, and national landmark. The actual plan, it turned out, was to meticulously restore it and turn it into an event space and banquet hall, and place a 40-story hotel right next door.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other half lives in Williamsburg, I’m told. The Brooklyn patois pronunciation for this neighborhood is “Willemsboig” and my parents – who used to bank with the company once located here – called it “Da Willemsboig Savins Banks.” They stayed with the company all the way till it became HSBC. That’s brand loyalty, folks. Back tomorrow with a few more shots from within the lush interior, including some details on the vault.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 18, 2014 at 7:30 am

weird and alluring

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Relics and Ruins in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The presence of the new DEP Sludge Boat Hunts Point, docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, was what got me out of Queens on a cold January day. The MTA introducing mid journey service alterations are what made me late. The weather was tolerable, but January and the East River are highly incompatible to one such as myself. A desire, for a strong cup of coffee, prevailed.

Vouched for, my escort allowed me a moment or two to observe that which lies within the ancient borders of this former ship yard, which once launched Battleships (thanks again R).

One thing that caught my attention, while waving the camera about, was a derelict rail transfer bridge.

from wikipedia

The United States Navy Yard, New York, also known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the New York Naval Shipyard (NYNSY), is a shipyard located in Brooklyn, New York, 1.7 miles (2.7 km) northeast of the Battery on the East River in Wallabout Basin, a semicircular bend of the river across from Corlear’s Hook in Manhattan. It was bounded by Navy Street, Flushing and Kent Avenues, and at the height of its production of warships for the United States Navy, it covered over 200 acres (0.81 km2).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often referred to as a gantry crane by most, the correct terminology (I’m told) is actually “a transfer bridge.” The rail guys don’t enjoy the rest of us using “Gantry,” so don’t go there.

The body of water which the Navy Yard is embedded into is Wallabout Bay, named for the vestigial Wallabout Creek. The specific section of the bay that this rusted relic abuts is actually Wallabout Channel, a canalized industrial channel with a CSO discharge on one side and the East River on the other. Supposedly, this canal roughly follows the path of a long ago Wallabout Creek, as it was known by a fellow named Joris back in the 1630’s.

from wikipedia

The Wallabout became the first spot on Long Island settled by Europeans when several families of French-speaking Walloons opted to purchase land there in the early 1630s, having arrived in New Netherland in the previous decade from Holland. Settlement of the area began in the mid-1630s when Joris Jansen Rapelje exchanged trade goods with the Canarsee Indians for some 335 acres (1.36 km2) of land at Wallabout Bay, but Rapelje, like other early Wallabout settlers, waited at least a decade before relocating full-time to the area, until conflicts with the tribes had been resolved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An impossible amount of effort, spent over multiple centuries, has been expended in this particular place and clustering in every corner are relics and reminders of the past. There isn’t a rusty screw on this property that’s not important, from the industrial archaeological point of view. In many ways, that’s the issue in ancient locations like the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Is this a museum, or an industrial complex?

The Navy Yard is actually both, but there are plenty of old skeletons lying about the place, like this rusted out 20th century rail transfer bridge.

from 1900’s “Annual Report of the War Department, Report of the Chief of Engineers Part 2“, courtesy google books

IMPROVEMENT OF WALLABOUT CHANNEL NEW YORK

Wallabout Channel consists of a waterway extending in a half circle around the inside of the island known as Cob Dock, which lies in Wallabout Bay, off the United States Navy Yard at Brooklyn, N.Y. and is a part of the United States property. Wallabout Channel connects with Wallabout Bay east and west of Cob Dock.

Wallabout Bay is a slight indentation of the East River at a point about opposite the navy yard.

Wallabout Channel is separated into two parts, called the east and west channels, by a stone causeway which connects the mainland with Cob Dock. The east channel which is about 2,000 feet long and from 250 to 350 feet wide and had available depths of from 15 to 20 feet along the line of deepest water, diminishing to 5 feet along the sides is the part now embraced in the approved project for improvement.

The mean range of tide is 4 5 feet

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Brooklyn Navy Yard once hosted a small nation’s worth of rail infrastructure, connecting with the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal and the Williamsburg waterfront tracks. Most of the internal Navy Yard rail, as far as I can tell, seemed to be about transporting materials from shore to ship and from place to place within the facility. I am no expert on this subject, so take a grain of salt with that statement, and click on the “trainweb.org” link below for the whole story.

Cryptically referred to as “Structure 713,” this railroad float bridge actually received a look, around a decade ago, from my pal John McCluskey – check his 2006 shots out here.

from trainweb.org

This float bridge was modified somewhat in 1983, when the overhead supported dual spans seen in the image above were replaced with a pontoon supported float bridge. Actually, there were two pontoon supported float bridges installed.

The first pontoon supported float bridge was a through plate girder type, believed to have been floated over from the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad’s Hoboken, NJ facility. However, this float bridge developed an as yet undetermined conflict before being use, necessitating a replacement. It is understood, that the float bridge or pontoon was too wide to between the gantry foundations, but this is unconfirmed.

The second pontoon supported float bridge, a pony truss would be installed instead, and the plate girder would be abandoned next to the bulkhead to the left. This pony truss float bridge was taken from the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal’s North 9th Street location, following the closure of that facility in August 1983.

This float bridge was last used in 1995 by New York Cross Harbor RR for a subway car rebuilder that located to the Navy Yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once upon a time, there were many locations on the western coast of Long Island wherein a rail car might find a spot to board a boat and head to points north and west, but 20-30 years ago the “powers that be” decided to turn their backs on industry, and expensive equipment like this float bridge was just allowed to rust away. Rail tracks were wrenched away from the ground to make way for residential real estate development, an action played out all across the greater harbor, and not just in Brooklyn and Queens.

from nyc.gov

At the time of its construction, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was one of six such yards commissioned by the United States Navy. In its initial years, the Brooklyn Navy Yard functioned primarily as a depot for supplies, but during the early 19th century, it served as the Navy’s primary shipbuilding and repair facility. Shipbuilding activity increased during the War of 1812, when the yard fitted out more than 100 naval vessels. During the mid-19th century, the growth of shipping and port activities in New York City further enhanced the Navy Yard’s development. During the Civil War, the Navy Yard served as a key depot for the distribution of stores and supplies to the Union fleet, and the Naval Laboratory prepared most of the medicines used by the Union Navy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in prior posts, your humble narrator attends a lot of meetings and presentations which are offered by the modern day “powers that be.” Other than their enormous affection for bicycling and an epic level of hubris, one of the topics often bemoaned by the planners and pundits is the inability suffered by modern industry to move their goods about by any means other than automotive truck. Serious investment in rail, and particularly rail to barge transportation, is something they’ll often mention as a curative for the congested nature of area roads.

from dlib.nyu.edu

The origins of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, officially known as the New York Naval Shipyard, date back to 1801, when the United States Navy acquired what had previously been a small, privately owned shipyard in order to construct naval vessels. Historic vessels constructed or launched at the Navy Yard include Robert Fulton’s steam frigate, the Fulton, the USS Arizona, the USS Missouri, and the USS Antietam. During the Civil War, the Navy Yard employed about 6,000 people. By 1938, it provided jobs for over 10,000 people. When the Defense Department ceased shipbuilding activities at the Navy Yard in 1966, 88 vessels had been manufactured at the facility. It had also grown to encompass 291 acres with 270 major buildings, 24 miles of railroad tracks, 23,278 linear feet of crane tracks, 18 miles of paved roads, 16,495 feet of berthing space, 9 piers, 6 dry docks, and 22 shops housing 98 different trades. In 1967, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was acquired by the City of New York and was converted for private commercial use.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In modern times, the Navy Yard is run by a private entity, one which has embraced a somewhat asymmetrical viewpoint on how to best utilize the property. Movie production houses like Steiner Studios, warehousing businesses like BH Photo, even an urban farm operation are found within the gates of the Navy Yard. The friend who got me in through the security check has a small venture here, one which I’m going to describe in a future post at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

from panynj.gov

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) are preparing a NEPA Tier I Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate alternatives to improve the movement of goods in the region by enhancing the transportation of freight across New York Harbor. Given the existing freight movement system, forecasted increases in demand translate directly into increased truck traffic in the freight distribution network. The region’s ability to serve its markets is increasingly threatened by its heavy reliance on trucking goods over an ageing and congested roadway network, while non-highway freight modes, particularly rail and waterborne, remain underdeveloped and underutilized.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 21, 2014 at 8:39 am

vital organs

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A boid at da Navy Yerd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. birthday day, a holiday officially observed on the third Monday in January, in compliance with the Federal “Uniform Monday Holiday Act.” King’s actual birthday was January 15th. As it’s a holiday, a single shot is offered today, captured at the Brooklyn Navy Yard just last week. This is looking southwest, towards lower Manhattan, depicting a seagull photo bombing my shot. I’ve got a couple of other interesting scenes which were observed at the Navy Yard, which will be examined at this – your Newtown Pentacle – in the coming week.

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silent tongue

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Maritime Sunday floats in with today’s tide.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Evening Mist tug, owned by the redoubtable Bouchard company, motoring its way down the East River and past the iconic and abandoned Domino Sugar Plant. Just a short one today, carrying a heartfelt shout out to the cast and crew of the Evening Mist.

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Want to see something cool? Summer 2013 Walking Tours-

Kill Van Kull Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 14, 2013 at 11:00 am

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